The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Indiana looks to expand Korean ties in chips, AI

Indiana official highlights local community, academic partners as alluring factors for foreign investment

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : March 11, 2024 - 16:09

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Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul on Friday. (Joe Tamborello/Indiana Economic Development Corp.) Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul on Friday. (Joe Tamborello/Indiana Economic Development Corp.)

The state of Indiana has risen as one of the hottest investment destinations in the US for South Korean companies as of late, with Samsung SDI leading the pack by committing billions of dollars for joint battery plants there.

Indiana is now hoping to expand the scope of collaboration with Korean players in the sectors of semiconductors and artificial intelligence.

“There’s a lot of alignment when we talk about semiconductors. Purdue University was one of the first universities to have a semiconductor degree program and there’s partnership with Ivy Tech (Community College) on training those workers,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg in an interview with The Korea Herald on the sidelines of the InterBattery 2024 exhibition in Seoul on Friday.

“AI and the future of data I think is a big key. Because some of the incentives we can offer, a lot of the tech companies are looking at Indiana. … We have a chance to build the ecosystem that’s kind of the mecca of (next-generation) AI with how we’ve positioned ourselves.”

Regarding connections with some of Korea’s leading players in chips and AI, Rosenberg noted that the Indiana delegation had “a lot of very productive meetings,” without disclosing specifics or names.

According to the state government, Indiana’s battery and electric vehicle supply chain has attracted more than $14 billion in investments since 2022, with South Korean companies accounting for a large chunks of that.

Samsung SDI and Stellantis have committed to investing a total of $6.3 billion to build two joint EV battery manufacturing sites in Kokomo, north of Indianapolis. The Korean battery maker also joined hands with General Motors to build a $3 billion EV battery cell plant in New Carlisle, near the Michigan border.

Amid foreign companies such as LG Energy Solution, Panasonic, TSMC and Intel either canceling or delaying their plans to construct manufacturing sites in other states in the US, Rosenberg said the process of Samsung SDI’s Indiana plants has been smooth sailing.

“The first phase in Kokomo is already going vertical and will be completed over the course of next year or so,” he said.

“Ivy Tech Kokomo worked with Stellantis and Samsung SDI to create a curriculum and a training program for the workforce that will go straight into the factory. So much so that the first equipment that was ordered by Samsung SDI went to Ivy Tech Kokomo and not into the factory because they’re already training workers.”

Asked about the results of the upcoming US presidential election in November possibly having negative impacts on Korean firms’ ongoing projects in Indiana, as the fate of the President Joe Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act granting incentives for domestic manufacturing may depend on it, the state secretary of commerce dismissed such concerns.

“I was in (Washington) D.C. a couple of weeks ago, meeting with the White House and their IRA implementation team,” he said.

“Our goal is to be that facilitator between the federal government and the industry and companies to ensure that they’re able to get through the process, understand what’s needed to be able to make a compelling case for those federal dollars that are coming into the state. Regardless of what happens in the November elections, I think we’ve positioned Indiana as a practical state that just wants to get things done.”